Queer Tech MTL examines how allies can better support the LGBTQ+ community

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Queer Tech MTL‘s latest event invited participants to discuss the role of allies in maintaining friendly working environments for the LGBTQ+ community. “We want to talk about the importance of allies for a number of reasons,” said Naoufel Testaouni, co-founder of the group that has grown to more than 450 members since its creation in the fall of 2016. “We wanted to take a moment to thank them and show our gratitude.”

First, what is an ally? “This is someone who does not identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community or the queer community, but who supports us. A proactive ally is someone who goes a little further to help by taking on more committed roles,” Testaouni explained.

The evening was intended to be interactive, and as such, the participants were invited to form groups of four to discuss given questions. For example, the first topic of conversation was to discuss a situation that had been experienced or heard about where allies had been judged to have done a good job. Each group then wrote the key concepts of their conversations, with the aim of sharing these with the audience at the end of the meeting.

queer tech mtl

“You can always make policies that divide us, but we think there’s a better solution,” said Jason Behrmann, co-founder and director of communications for Queer Tech MTL. “We want to build bridges between the allies and the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s clear that we’re all in the same boat.”

The second point discussed was a situation in which you wanted someone or yourself to be a better ally. Even though those present were considered allies by their mere presence at such an event, many realize that we have a long way to go as a society before reaching perfect inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community.

A recurring reflection on the allies’ part was, ironically, their lack of proactivity towards the community. “I came as an ally, and I always felt I was a good reactive ally, but I just realized that I’m really not good at being a proactive ally! I do not create a good environment [for the LGBTQ+ community]. I am only reacting to an unfair situation. It’s something I have to improve, and it’s a revelation I’ve had tonight,” one participant observed.

Equality of opportunity does not belong only to LGBTQ+ members, but also to all those who are not part of the heterosexual white man’s majority group. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community or as an ally, one must also be careful about discriminatory behaviour, such as those toward recent immigrants, or [witnessing] Islamophobia. I believe we have a responsibility to be proactive and responsive to things that we are also facing — in a different form, of course — and we also have experiences they can identify with,” added another participant.

The evening closed with the announcement of Pride Hacks, a hackathon centred on the LGBTQ+ community that will be held during Pride Montreal. There will be discussion panels and workshops to help participants develop hacks that will then be presented to a jury. Participants will have the chance to win a $10,000 grant.

Gabrielle Drouin

Gabrielle Drouin

Gabrielle Drouin has completed a master’s degree in Literature specializing in Quebec’s contemporary dramaturgy at University of Montreal. She worked as a journalist in Toronto, covering the news of its Franco-Ontarian community, and has been reporting on the Montreal startup tech ecosystem since 2016. She is currently the Community & Portfolio Manager at Panache Ventures.